BRUNSWICK — The FBI confirmed that St. Ambrose Catholic Church has been the victim of a “business email compromise scheme.”
“Business email compromise (BEC) scheme is a sophisticated scam targeting both businesses and individuals performing wire transfer payments,” the FBI said in the statement Tuesday.
The Rev. Bob Stec informed parishioners of the theft of roughly $1.75 million of the $5 million raised to complete significant renovations to the church in a letter dated April 27.
The church was made aware of the theft the Wednesday before Easter.
Stec said previously that the parish of roughly 5,200 families learned of the theft after Marous Brothers Construction informed the church that it was two months behind in its scheduled payments.
It was shocking news, as the church said it had always made prompt payments and received the appropriate confirmations regarding the wire transfers, Stec said.
It was later discovered that two employee email accounts were hacked, resulting in the money being wired to a fraudulent bank account.
According to the FBI, BEC is an extremely sophisticated technique, utilizing various deception techniques to fool individuals.
One technique is known as spear phishing, which is when “bogus emails believed to be from a trusted sender prompt victims to reveal confidential information, and malware is often used to infiltrate company networks and gain access to legitimate email threads about billing and invoices, passwords, and/or financial account information,” the statement said.
In order to avoid a similar situation, individuals are encouraged to keep firewalls turned on, install and update anti-virus software, keep operating systems up-to-date, be careful what is downloaded and what information to provided through email. Turning off devices when not in use is also recommended.
The Cleveland Division of the FBI and the Brunswick Police Department are working in coordination with the church and the Diocese of Cleveland regarding the fraud. No addition comment was provided from law enforcement.
Stec said Monday that the church has filed the appropriate insurance claims, and expects the renovations to be fully completed within a matter of weeks.
For more about internet scams or to file a complaint, visit www.ic3.gov.